The Shrinking Secular Gender Gap

Among the many findings of the latest PRRI report on religion in America, my favorite is the growing number of women with no religious affiliation. In their new report, PRRI reports that 45 percent of women are nones. This is up 4 percentage points from what the Pew Religious Landscape Survey found a decade ago. An increase of 4 percentage points may not sound like much. But if we look at it in terms of real population numbers the impact of this increase becomes apparent.

The nones growing faster than the general population.

Between 2007 and 2016 the adult population in the USA went from 227.2 million to 249.5 million, a 10 percent overall growth in a little less than a decade. However, the secular population increased from 16 percent of the adult population (or roughly 36.4 million people) to 24 percent (or 59.9 million). In other words, the nones increased by 64 percent (basically, 6.5 times faster than the adult population).

More than half of “new nones” are women.

There is still a gender imbalance in the none population, but in the last decade women left religion at similar rates. In 2007 14.9 million women identified as nones (41 percent of all nones). If we extrapolate the PRRI numbers, a total of nearly 27 million women have now no religious affiliation. That indicates a growth of 81 percent in the number of women with no religious affiliation. The 12.1 million women who have joined the ranks of the nones represent 51 percent of the 23.5 million new nones in the last decade.

Making the world safer for secular women

The Pew and PRRI data don’t have much to say about why people, and especially women, are leaving religion. But those of us who have done so and who know many people who have abandoned the religion they were raised in and became atheists, agnostics and other types of nones have an idea of what’s going on. In a world where women are a major part of the labor force, where there’s a political party dedicated full-time to send women back to the home…and that said party is controlled by the most reactionary religious elements of the country, it should not be surprising that women have decided that religion isn’t for them. That doesn’t mean that secularism is more welcoming. Despite of their love for pointing out religious misogyny, many so-called atheist and secular leaders are very good at dissing the views of secular women. The data may show that religion is losing its grip on many in the United States, but unless we have institutions that are truly inclusive, organized secularism will continue to be a boys club.

Sources:

Adult population

2016 nones gender ratios

2007 nones gender ratios

Note: edited to fix typo “adulation” meant “adult population” (thanks autocorrect)

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